View Full Version : Correct Pronunciation of Names

24-10-2004, 8:57 PM
A common first name in my family is RALPH, handed down through generations from at least the 1600s. So I'm just wondering...

In Northumberland, in the 17th and 18th centuries, how would Ralph have been pronounced by most people?

...With a hard 'a' and silent 'l' as in Rafe [like Ralph Fiennes]?
...Or the way it is here, in my neck of the woods, with a soft 'a' as in Ralf?

:confused: Trish
Toronto, Canada

04-11-2004, 2:32 PM
Hi Trish,

although I'm sure most people nowadays in Northumberland pronounce 'Ralph' in much the same way as you do, the pronunciation of the name in the traditional Northumberland dialect is quite different. The "Orton Corpus" of traditional Northumberland pronunciation (Kurt Rydland 1998) gives two types of pronunciation for this name in the first half of the 20th century:

1) as 'raff', with the initial 'r' pronounced quite like a French or German 'r' (the Northumberland 'Burr', which has been around since at least the 18th century), and with the 'a' short as in northern English pronunciations of 'chaff'; this is probably derived from the pronunciation in (2);

2) as 'raaf', again with the 'Burr', but this time with a long vowel more like that in 'half or 'calf'.

In either case, the 'l' was not pronounced, but the vowel was not the same as that in 'safe'. How far back these pronunciations go I'm not sure, but 'l' loss in such words is a common feature of far northern English and Scottish dialects (e.g. 'aad' for 'old'), and so is probably of considerable antiquity.

Of course, other pronunciations of 'Ralph', found in Standard English, would likely have coexisted side by side with these broad dialect pronunciations.

Hope that helps,


05-11-2004, 1:56 AM
It does help, Warren. Thank you. I appreciate your taking the time to explain the variations to me in detail. I'd probably fail miserably trying to pronounce "Ralph" in the ways you describe -- I can't do "bur-r-r-rs"! ;)


Jo Simpsons
11-03-2005, 7:47 PM
I have just been on this site, you can hear audio files. Might give you a bit more insight how it sounds!
Jo :)

07-07-2005, 5:59 PM
My family WAUGH come from Northumberland (Styford, Bywell, Ovingham) and I am wondering if anyone can say how this family name was pronounced in that area in the 18th and 17th centuries and back.

Also, how is it currently pronounced in that area?

I know of at least 3 distinctly different pronunciations of my family name:

-in Glasgow (and the rest of Scotland?) I encountered it pronounces as WOCH (to me sounded similar to LOCH with gutteral sound). That sounding would support a derivation from the name WAUCHOPE, (walk-up) I suppose.

-in USA my father and I have each encountered those who would insist on a pronounciaton as WAAFF (and WOFF) (as in Laugh...laughter, humour)

-and as I know it, and it is pronounced here in Maine, and also in the rest of England too I believe, like the word AWE (to be in awe of...) but with a leading and definite W sound.

-this last has variations of it's own, sometimes sounding like WAR (which here in Maine is pronounced as WAHH), and sometimes as WORE.

Can anyone say how it was/is sounded in Northumberland?


12-07-2005, 7:58 PM
I cannot say how it was pronounced historically, but in North East England today it is pronounced 'Woff'. In other parts of England, it is pronounced as 'War'.



17-07-2005, 8:05 PM
Thanks for the reply.
That's surprising and interesting to me, as it seems really the closest to the two incidents (individuals) which both my father and myself experienced (pronouncing Waff as in Laugh), and frankly which we both found great humour in (pun acknowledged!) as the most silly pronunciation we had each encountered! (possibly the overbearing personality of the two individuals doing the pronouncing had much to do with our reactions!) However now it seems they may not have been that far off base afterall! My father would have gotten a kick out of this knowledge. (he is deceased now)
Thanks again,
Anyone else have input on variations in pronunciation of my family name, WAUGH?